Kitimat and Northern Health Kick it Up with Award-winning Collaboration
Partnerships have resulted in strong community engagement and increased physical activity in the District of Kitimat.
The District of Kitimat and Northern Health signed the Active Living, Health and Wellness Protocol in 2008 to formalize a long-standing, mutually beneficial relationship, and the rewards to the community keep coming. The resulting Kick It Up Kitimat program engages community services, multicultural groups, seniors, youth, and the school district, resulting in inclusive health programs and healthier lifestyles for citizens.
This partnership illustrates how smaller communities can maximize resources by working together on shared health goals. For Kitimat, extended community collaboration allows multiple partners to reach out and to encourage under-served groups to get more active.
For over 20 years, the District of Kitimat and Northern Health have teamed up to bring community programs on preventative health care and active living to the area. This informal arrangement generated a range of projects, from coordinating a healthy eating program to hosting a Wellness Conference.
The signing of the protocol agreement in 2008 gave recognition to the importance of the existing partnership. Having an agreement like this in place reminds organizations about the benefits of working together in a small community. For team members, the agreement is an illustration or statement about how things get accomplished, and what collaboration can achieve.
As part of the Active Living, Health and Wellness Protocol, Northern Health and Kitimat Leisure Services staff engage with multicultural groups, first nations, seniors, youth and the school district. Stakeholders include:
- District of Kitimat Leisure Services (formally known as Recreation Department)
- Northern Health, Kitimat Health Unit
- Seniors Association
- Kitimat Youth Centre
- Haisla Nation Council (formally referred to as Kitamaat Village)
- Coast Mountains Board of Education School District #82
The mandate of the agreement is simple – to promote and improve the quality of people’s lives through providing opportunities to live an active healthy lifestyle. The vision of the protocol agreement brought forward the Kick it Up Kitimat initiative. According to the vision,
“Through partnering with other stakeholders in our community and by using local media outlets to promote “Kick it Up Kitimat,” we will:
- Educate and promote the benefits of a healthy active lifestyle to the residents of Kitimat.
- Educate and promote the variety of opportunities that support an active lifestyle in Kitimat.
- Develop a sense of pride and empowerment in the residents of Kitimat when it comes to personal health and quality of life.
- Educate and promote the importance and benefits of developing social network through activity to improve health.”
The Women’s Wellness Project was one of the first Kick it up Kitimat undertakings.
By working in the community with multicultural groups, the partners learned why recreation participation was low for South Asian citizens, especially women. When the cultural preferences of South Asian women were addressed by providing ‘women only’ pool hours, participation from this group increased. And when the women became active and engaged with the activity, they agreed to the original communal pool hours.
Feedback from the Women’s Wellness project indicated there was demand for more information and planning began on the next project – Women’s Wellness and Spa – two nights of health information attended by over 300 residents.
More recently, Kick It Up Kitimat has focused on raising awareness regarding men’s health.
Results from the 2011 Northern Health report, Where are the Men: Chief Medial Health Officer’s Report on the Health and Wellbeing of Men and Boys in Northern BC show that men in the north die from preventable types of disease and illness such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer at a higher rate than men in other parts of BC.
In February 2012, the Kitimat Health Unit set up a men's health screening booth at the Kitimat Ice Demons playoff game. Hosting a men’s awareness night at a hockey game was the perfect venue to reach that segment of the community.
Future plans include a continuation of the Men’s Health Initiative with a focus on DIGMA (Drop-In Group Medical Appointments) as a forum for men to discuss health issues in a group setting.
Key Outcomes and Impact of the Protocol Agreement
- It has given staff ongoing permission to actively pursue opportunities where the two agencies can work together at the grassroots level.
- It provides formal recognition of the work that has been going on for the past 25 years.
- It serves as a model of efficiency that other communities can emulate.
- At the community level, the residents of Kitimat now have a sustainable and consistent approach regarding programs and services.
The protocol agreement brought legitimacy to the programs and Kick it Up Kitimat became the tool for delivering the programs. This formal partnership allowed engagement to various ethnic groups, all age groups and specialized segments of the community that were traditionally hard to reach.
- Start slow and find common ground among stakeholders
- Be realistic about capacity (staff resources and timing)
- Engage the community all along the way
- Promote current projects and future plans with decision makers
- Promote successes within your community
In 2010, the Kick it Up Kitimat program was recognized by the UBCM Community Excellence Awards – Best Practices. The award submission document provides detailed information about the program’s practices and approach to building capacity, one step at a time.
In 2011, Kick It Up Kitimat was featured in a webinar hosted by BC Healthy Communities Society entitled When Local Governments and Health Authorities say “I Do”: Creating Formal Partnerships to Improve Community Health. Webinar resources are available here.
For more information about Kick it Up Kitimat, please contact:
Deputy Director of Leisure Services
District of Kitimat
Office: 250 632 8959